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While the regional head of the NAACP is calling for Sen. Chris Buttars to resign over a racially charged comment, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. says that is a matter for voters.
And Senate President John Valentine says the decision is Buttars' alone.
"I think it's totally up to his constituents to decide," Huntsman said in an interview Thursday. "He has to answer to those people who elected him to office and they are the ones who ultimately will decide, based on their level of outrage, if he ought to resign."
"He should listen carefully to what they have to say," the governor said.
Huntsman said he would not dignify Buttars' comment with a response.
During debate Tuesday on a bill to equalize school construction funds, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, called the measure an "ugly baby." Other senators picked up on the metaphor and as Buttars stood to oppose the measure, he said: "This baby is black. It is a dark, ugly thing."
During a break after the debate, Sen. Ross Romero approached Senate President John Valentine with concerns about the offensive remark and, when senators returned, Buttars apologized, but insisted it was not meant to be racist.
"I made a comment that I think a lot of people could take racist. I certainly did not mean that in any way but it was wrong and certainly could easily have been taken that way," Buttars said. "I apologize to anyone who took offense. . . . I ask for your forgiveness."
Buttars declined further comment Thursday. A Senate spokesman said Buttars wanted his apologies on the floor and on the Senate blog (senatesite.com) to speak for themselves.
Valentine said he could not remember something like this happening before.
Because Buttars apologized, the Senate has no recourse under its rules to take any action, Valentine said.
"It's now up to Senator Buttars to say what he's going to do."
Valentine said Buttars has given no indication whether he will resign.
"Senator Buttars is in a very difficult situation. He made a comment he does not feel good about himself. I'll let him make his decision - he needs to come to grips with his decision."
Jeanetta Williams, regional president of NAACP, is calling for Buttars' resignation.
"We are asking him to step down," she said.
Williams had said Tuesday evening that she accepted Buttars' apology and would not demand that he step aside, but she later remembered an earlier incident where Buttars questioned the legality of the Supreme Court's landmark civil rights ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which did away with the "separate but equal" doctrine.
"I thought, 'You know what? This is the second time of this type of situation has happened. I'm going to change my mind,' " she said.
Williams said she has left a phone message for Buttars and asked to meet with him. She also plans to send a letter with a formal request for him to step down.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said, "It's really thrown a cloud over all of us. . . . I think it's a situation that Senator Buttars will have to address on his own."
Buttars left the Capitol early Wednesday, but issued a statement reiterating his regret for his comments. He was back at his desk on the Senate floor Thursday.